Elections don’t have to be perfect

There’s no such thing as a perfect election.

Conducting a large election is a vast and complicated enterprise. Glitches occur: Polling place snafus, voting machines that didn’t work, miscounted ballots, lost ballots, and so on. But inadvertent problems and mistakes don’t target any particular candidate and aren’t fraud, which is extremely rare.

Elections should always be the best we can do, and of necessity, that has to be good enough. Rejecting election results because of problems in the process that don’t affect results would mean we couldn’t elect anybody.

Election officials have backups and contingency plans, and most problems and errors are cured somewhere in the process. For example, malfunctioning ballot printers at some Maricopa County polling locations in Arizona’s 2022 elections didn’t prevent anyone from voting or keep their votes from being counted (see story here).

“The best we can do” means having professionals run elections, and complying with election laws and adhering to best practices. There are processes in place for recounts and court challenges. Judges can order new elections, and in rare instances, have done so (see, e.g., story here).

At some point recounts and challenges have to end, and an election has to be over. Finality is needed so a winner can be declared, and the office is filled. Certifying an election produces an official result which is binding and final, subject to remaining challenges allowed by law.

People can, of course, continue gripe about a result, how an election was conducted, the election officials, mail voting and drop boxes, eligibility of voters, and even claim (however falsely) that “illegals voted” or there was “fraud” — that’s their First Amendment free speech right.

But the federal and state constitutions, the system of government they establish, and the election laws are all part of a social contract. This social contract is the means by which we live together peacefully despite our disagreements.

People who refuse to abide by the social contract are outlaws. Threatening election workers, interfering with election processes (see, e.g., story here), and the Jan. 6. 2021, Capitol riot are all outlaw behavior.

The majority of us accept election results, despite the inherent flaws and imperfections in elections, because that’s the glue that holds our society together. It’s the alternative to dictatorial rule flowing from gun barrels. And because we aren’t going to let outlaws run our society, it’s as simple as that.

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